Is Soy Sauce Gluten Free?

Is Soy Sauce Gluten Free? Usually not, but there are alternatives, from gluten-free soy sauce to tamari. Let’s have a look at the risks, alternatives, cross-contamination, and more!

A photo of a woman eating Asian noodles with chopsticks on a green and white background with text that says "Is Soy Sauce Gluten Free?"

Most Soy Sauce Is Not Gluten Free

If there’s one way to pack umami into a dish, soy sauce is the answer. Soy sauce is a staple in Asian cuisine, but it’s also a popular ingredient all around the world, known for its unique, briny flavor. 

If you’re new to going gluten-free, you might be wondering whether or not this beloved condiment is on the list of foods that are safe to eat. And the answer, unfortunately, is that most soy sauce out there is not gluten-free. Traditional versions contain wheat, and as a result, are unsafe for gluten-free diets.

But don’t despair! The good news is, gluten-free soy sauce exists, as do other alternatives. Let’s take a deeper dive into soy sauce, including how it’s made, gluten-free options, things to look out for, and whether it’s safe for those with celiac disease.

Related: Is Rice Gluten-Free? 

A bottle of teriyaki sauce with a spoon in it.

What Is Umami? 

So, you might be thinking, what even is umami? Umami is actually one of the five basic tastes, which include salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. The fifth taste, umami, is the Japanese name for savoriness, though it directly translates to “deliciousness”. 

And it is delicious: umami is a savory, rich, and complex flavor, often described as meaty. Soy sauce is a wonderful way to impart umami into all sorts of food, found in recipes like Teriyaki Sauce and Chicken Fried Rice

How Is Soy Sauce Made?

Traditional soy sauce is made by fermenting soybeans and crushed wheat in a salty brine. As a result, many brands of regular and low-sodium soy sauce on the market contain wheat and aren’t safe for gluten sensitivities. It’s an ingredient found in certain foods with gluten that takes many people by surprise!

Tossing the beef and vegetable stir fry together in the a wok with tongs.

Gluten Free Alternatives

So, if traditional soy sauce is a no-go, what are the alternatives? If you’re still looking to impart deliciousness to your favorite gluten-free Asian-inspired meals, below are some common choices:

Gluten-Free Soy Sauce

Some varieties, like Kikkoman Gluten Free Soy Sauce, are brewed with rice instead of wheat. This makes it safe for those with gluten intolerances. 


Another variety of soy sauce, tamari is fermented with only soy. While Japanese tamari traditionally contains traces of wheat, most tamari sold in the US, like San-J Tamari, is naturally gluten-free. Of course, if you’re unsure, always refer to a product’s labels.

Coconut Aminos

Coconut aminos are a naturally gluten-free alternative to soy sauce made from coconut blossom sap and salt. It contains a bunch of amino acids and the taste is very similar to soy sauce. 

Chopsticks holding a vegetable pancake being dipped in a bowl of Korean dipping sauce.

What to Look Out For

Unless a brand of soy sauce or tamari is labeled or certified gluten-free, it’s best to double-check the ingredients list. Ingredients to look out for are wheat, barley, and rye, as well as malts, extracts, and flavorings that may contain hidden gluten.

Cross Contamination Risks

As with other “naturally gluten-free” foods like rice and oats (see Are Oats Gluten Free?), occasionally, contact with gluten takes place behind the scenes. This can happen during harvest, during processing, or on the production line in facilities that also handle wheat products. This is known as cross-contamination, and it can be risky for those with gluten sensitivities, particularly those with celiac disease.

If trace amounts of gluten or cross-contamination pose a risk, it’s best to look for products that are either certified or otherwise labeled gluten-free. Of course, always consult with your healthcare provider to know which precautions you should take.

Is Gluten Free Soy Sauce Safe For Celiacs? 

If you’re severely sensitive to gluten, or if you’re celiac, stick to certified gluten-free soy sauce or a 100% naturally gluten-free alternative, like tamari or coconut aminos. Always double-check labels and do your due diligence to ensure that the product you use doesn’t have hidden gluten or risks of cross-contamination (see above). And again, if you’re unsure, speak to your doctor.

To summarize, while traditional soy sauce is not gluten-free, there are plenty of options available that are safe to eat. Alternatives like tamari (or coconut aminos) are a great way to give your favorite dishes a jolt of umami flavor! Try it in my recipes for Asian Grilled Chicken, Kung Pao Cauliflower, and Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps. You’ll be soy glad that you did.


A hand holding a small white spoon of soy sauce over a bowl of soy sauce.

More Gluten Free Recipes with Soy Sauce

Gluten Free Steak Stir Fry with Veggies and rice

Gluten Free Beef Stir Fry

A quick and easy Asian-inspired dinner recipe the family loves with strips of steak and crisp-tender veggies. A few simple substitutions make it gluten free.
Get The Recipe
Spicy Sesame Noodles with vegetables for garnish being picked up by a pair of chopsticks.

Spicy Sesame Noodles

The rich flavor of sesame and the nutty taste of peanut butter come together in these tender and heart-healthy Spicy Sesame Noodles. The perfect blend of sweetness and spice gives this recipe a complex and satisfying flavor profile that will leave everyone reaching for seconds.
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Broiled salmon on a plate with maple sesame glaze

Sesame Maple Glazed Salmon

With a sweet and savory Asian-inspired marinade, this Sesame Maple Glazed Salmon is a fish recipe that even the non-seafood eaters will love. Drizzle your perfectly broiled salmon with the flavorful sauce and serve it with broccoli and rice or cauliflower rice to make it a full meal. A simple swap of tamari for the soy sauce makes it gluten free.
Get The Recipe

Teriyaki Turkey Meatballs

Pineapple Teriyaki Turkey Meatballs pack your favorite sweet and savory Asian-inspired flavors into one little bite. This turkey meatball recipe is perfect for party appetizers and delicious for a quick and easy dinner.
Get The Recipe